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Ross-shire Journal book review of a small book that makes a big impact

By Margaret Chrystall

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So Late In The Day, by Claire Keegan.
So Late In The Day, by Claire Keegan.

Star Read: So Late In The Day by Claire Keegan.

Sometimes the time is right for a small book – to help a journey pass faster or as a little gift.

This week's Star Read – So Late In The Day by Claire Keegan – is a good example.

But sometimes you don't need a reason to buy a book, sometimes it's a title that catches your eye – or the cover picture makes you want to reach out and pick it up to take a closer look.With this book, when you do, you realise how short the text must be with just under 50 pages. Can there really be a whole story played out in so few pages?

But in the time it takes to read, you quickly realise that, like the best short stories, not only do you get to know a lot about the two main characters in So Late In The Day, you can find yourself thinking about the place they work, the country they live in and even the character of the nation of people they belong to, the difference between men and women.

Tick all the above for this bittersweet tale of two people learning to be together in life when every instinct tells them it could be dangerous if they want a happy future. But is it worth the risk?

In Claire Keegan's story a Dublin office worker is getting through his Friday afternoon doing everyday tasks – closing down a work file, making a cup of coffee, sharing plans for the weekend with workmates. But you quickly sense a reluctance from Cathal to share anything much with those around him as he heads for his home in the country, settling down to a chilled weekend and thinking over his time with girlfriend Sabine, a Frenchwoman he meets at a conference in Toulouse: "Things were lukewarm on her side at the beginning, but he didn't push."

But tensions surface:

– 'Did I not buy all those cherries for your fancy tart?And haven't I helped you here all day moving your stuff?

– 'Did you help – or just watch?' she asked. 'And that night when you bought the cherries at Lidl, you told me they cost more than six euros'

Claire Keegan writes sentences to savour: "Almost everything she brought home she cooked with apparent light-handedness and ease, with what Cathal took to be love."

The possibility of happiness, yet exposing a rot at the heart of it all, this small book leaves you with big questions reaching beyond Cathal and Sabine.

Can they be rescued?

So Late In The Day by Claire Keegan (Faber £9.99)

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